Smokers are on average thinner than nonsmokers, and many smokers gain weight when they quit. However, the specific cellular mechanisms of nicotinic receptors responsible for the effects of nicotinic agents on feeding are unclear. Now, Mineur et al. show that nicotine acts through α3β4-containing nicotinic acetylcholine receptors to increase hypothalamic pro-opiomelanocortin neuron activity, which then decreases feeding and body weight. Thus, nicotinic agonists may be useful for limiting weight gain after smoking cessation, and nicotinic drugs could also help control obesity and related metabolic disorders.
Y. S. Mineur, A. Abizaid, Y. Rao, R. Salas, R. J. DiLeone, D. Gündisch, S. Diano, M. De Biasi, T. L. Horvath, X.-B. Gao, M. R. Picciotto, Nicotine decreases food intake through activation of POMC neurons. Science 332, 1330–1332 (2011). [Abstract] [Full Text]